State of Illinois Not in Contempt on State Payments

Sep 1, 2015

Illinois won't be held in contempt for failing to pay for services for the developmentally disabled on time. U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman dismissed the contempt motion, ruling the state is making an effort to catch up on payments, though she found it "disturbing" that it took an emergency motion to get the state to comply with her original order to pay providers on a similar schedule to the last fiscal year. What wasn't settled is whether the state could have made those payments on time. Comptroller's office attorney John Stevens says the state is dealing with cash shortage problems during the budget impasse, even if on paper, there appears to be money left in the state's accounts: "We have to be careful we can't go into the red," Stevens said. "Just like you might keep $20 in your checkbook, we keep $20 in our checkbook."  In a written release Tuesday, State Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger says she is grateful to the Court for recognizing that her office has done, and will continue to do, everything in its power to ensure that the state's budget shortfall does not impact payment for services for people with developmental disabilities.  Munger says since being sworn into office eight months ago, she has made payments for those serving our most vulnerable her top priority.  Barry Taylor, attorney for Equip for Equality, says he's not sure what would have happened if the state was found to be in contempt, but he says he's more concerned with service providers being paid. Bill Choslovsky, attorney for Chicago's Misericordia Home, says the state did have the money to pay service providers on time along with other obligations like pensions and payroll: "The best evidence, even after the fact, is the state had ample funds," Choslovsky said.  Choslovsky is leaving the door open on trying to hold the state in contempt if more payments arrive late, though he hopes such a move isn't necessary.